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Why are Apps, Data and the Internet so heavy now?

One has to wonder why everything seems so slow and heavy on the technology world sometimes, y'know? Sometimes I end up wondering about it, but today I decided to write a bit on the matter, specifically about mobile phones and the internet.

There's that word again. "Heavy." Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth's gravitational pull?
Doc, from the movie "Back to the Future (1985)"

Android Apps

Google Play Services using more space for user data than for itself.

I've never had an iPhone, so I can't talk much about those, but I hear the problems are similar. My phone specifically has 4GB of internal storage (1,8GB of which is reserved for Android's OS) and 7,4GB of external storage (8GB SD card). The SD card is mostly empty, and it makes a good candidate for storing files, which I already do with most of them: Only about 15MB of my files are in the internal storage. Even so, my installed apps are still somehow occupying 1,4GB of space.

Next thing I think about is if I've downloaded too many apps, but and the truth is I don't have many, only about 10 which use a total of about 162MB of storage. The heaviest is WhatsApp with 50MB, duh. Second heaviest is...Solitaire with 39MB? OK, bye Solitaire. Everything else seems to be in an acceptable range of 20MB, and even so, five of those apps occupy less than 10MB each. So, downloading too many apps doesn't seem to be the problem.

Then I discover that, what is preventing me from downloading new updates by consuming most of the built-in space are the built-in apps themselves, but not just the apps, their updates. I'll explain, some "necessary" apps occupied as much as 100MB, with about half of it being used for user data (WHAT?) and the rest is mostly updates. Even though uninstalling bundled software, like Dropbox for example, shouldn't clear up any space, it kinda does. It goes from about 60MB to just 3MB when you disable it, because it uninstalls all of the updates along with it. See another example here with the text-to-speech conversion engine. In fact, Google's apps are the the ones that are most guilty of this for sure, but strangely enough, almost every third-party service suffers from the same thing. Huh, I wonder why. </sarcasm>

So, disabling some of the heaviest internal applications really seems to solve the issue, since it deletes the updates along with it. Yay, updates. Something that should be used to enhance user experience instead is being used to bloat softwares in these cases. Greeeeat. Now you know what apps to look for though. I didn't comment on the pre-made apps that don't use those services mentioned before because I suspect they're either extremely optimized by the manufacturer, or they just outright cheat. The voice recording app consumes 0B. Maybe it's integrated with the system, I wouldn't know though.

I suspect the reason for the aforementioned apps to use so much space is because of either poorly optimized code or outright abusive collection and tracking of user data for ad services, or even a combination of both. That Solitaire app is one of the few I had that does provide ads every time you play a new game, so it makes sense. Some might argue that it's for enhancing performance and user experience, but there's clearly a point where enough is enough.

Websites and the Internet

Overall, most people use loads of technology and fancy effects on their pages that way exceed what they need to provide to the user. In the name of "looking neat and fancy", a lot of functionality and basic aspects of web design are lost. Pages should be readable, shouldn't include too much unnecessary information, should be easy to navigate, etc.

You should already know the deal by now. Images. Compress them or link them. You don't have to make the JPG so compressed you can't tell what's what in the picture, but making every single image on a website >1MB is incredibly problematic. It's not just about not ruining the web for people with metered internet, it's about making your webpage's load times actually tolerable. Most users aren't going to pay much attention to your site if it takes a lot of time for it to load or if it lags the browser way too much.

Animated images and videos are even worse. Of course when we go to a page specifically to watch a video, it's to understand we agree to having to download heavy data, no problem. The problem is when you have those auto playing on your website in order to make it more "impressive". Look, this page uses 146KB (plus 469KB from the fonts) total. Seriously. You don't need 7MB just for your background image. In the worst case scenario, use some @media CSS rules so small devices don't need to download much, or (although I don't like the idea) use it to make sure that the 4K/8K/16K user gets to see a high-quality image.

In other news, some aspects of Web 2.0 sucks, it really sucks bad. Now, there are aspects of the new technologies presented that are useful, AngularJS can really organize and simplify JavaScript, Google Fonts can be an easy way to implement a neat font to your website, Analytics can provide interesting data while also being minimal, etc. But minimize the amount of requests your website has to give to other domains on the internet, you can host your files locally, optimize them by making the code shorter and/or removing unnecessary statements. There are many pages that include an absurd amount of scripts, are they needed or are they just there because "why not?". Also, make sure your page renders without the need for JavaScript. Some features will be missing, of course, but content is the most important thing in your site after all.

I dislike most kinds of frameworks, actually. In some cases it's incredibly resource-expensive for little return. CSS is not that difficult, it has its flaws (trust me, it has quite a few), but for the most part it works very well just by manually specifying rules for each tag and class. HTML5 is also simple, but a few quirks aren't supported yet (figures). If you use things like Bootstrap, once you're mostly done, remove the unused rules and scripts to speed up loading times.


All and all, valuing a little optimization is always a good idea to make sure the core functionality and the basic principles of providing information, tools, apps, etc. to others isn't harmed, but don't overdo it, making things too light has an effect of making your page look like it was made on the late 90s, unless that's what you're going for.

I don't know if you noticed a pattern here, but I mentioned that ads might be the reason for such high amounts of user data on mobile apps, but another interesting thing is that most heavy scripts also have some sort of ad-like behavior, either by straight up distributing ads to you or by collecting data and selling it. It's a real problem nowadays.

I was going to touch on other applications too such as the ones for desktop computers and videogames, but I feel like I don't have much to say about it yet. Maybe later. Maybe. Until later then!